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Ask Not What Your School District Can Do for You...

A former Lakeside High parent believes local parents should let redistricting go through and let their students pollinate other schools.

North Druid Hills-Briarcliff Patch welcomes letters from readers. Send them to jonathan.cribbs@patch.com.

I'll be excoriated by my neighbors for saying this, but it is plainly obvious once we all agree to rid ourselves of the self-delusion insulating us from the truth: My neighbors are attempting to preserve their elitist, socioeconomic advantages. The fact is that -area schools are seriously overcrowded – in particular, .

People who can afford to live in the district have moved into it, which up until the housing bust was peppered with infill housing. The DeKalb County Board of Education is not charged with maintaining the property values of the wealthy citizens of north-central DeKalb County; on the contrary, its mission is to provide free, high-quality education to all the children of the county. If the board can fulfill its mission cost-effectively and avoid raising property taxes, that's icing on the cake. The most cost-effective way to do this is to redistrict the county to alleviate overcrowding.

The school board must implement other changes just as necessary as redistricting to reduce costs and introduce operational efficiencies. Not the least of these, DeKalb County must stop pouring kids into schools already brimming over with students because the schools being evacuated are low performing. The right thing to do is to fix the bad schools. Unfortunately, the board’s hands are tied, at least in the short run, by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. This law must be significantly amended so that it helps students without destroying their school systems.

Before I speak about the hypocrisy of my neighbors, I must first “out” myself. I have the luxury of being self-righteous about this issue because my youngest child graduated from Lakeside High last year and is now safely ensconced in college, safe from the grasp of a failing school system. Having admitted this, I still assert that we stand at a crossroads, and the two paths before us are starkly different: one road leads to a self-serving, circle-the-wagons outlook; the other to selfless civic responsibility.

Many of my neighbors consider themselves Christians. When confronted with the influx of students from schools that failed annual yearly progress, I’ve heard several of them claim, “They aren’t part of our community.” Likewise, when threatened with the redirecting of their own children away from Lakeside High to Druid Hills, I’ve heard others say, “That’s not our community.” To put it another way, my neighbors–even the Christian ones–are saying, in effect, “These people are not my neighbors.”

Jesus responded to this attitude with a story that began, “A certain man was on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho.”

What parental involvement and civic pride have done in the Lakeside district is nothing short of phenomenal. Without much support from the board, perhaps even in spite of the board, the community has maintained the highest standards of education within the community’s schools. Why do we then turn our backs and build a wall around what we have accomplished?

Why do we huddle in fear within our fortress of middle class provincialism? If we were to answer the call of civic duty, not to mention the call to obedience for those of us who are religious, we would be traveling outward from Oak Grove and Lakeside to carry the ripple effect to the next ring of schools, and the next, and the next.

Maybe in this 50th anniversary of the inauguration of John F. Kennedy, we should be asking ourselves, not what our school system can do for us, but what we can do for our school.

George Miranda is a former Lakeside High School parent. He lives in Decatur.

Cindi Roberts February 13, 2011 at 11:44 PM
I don't really know where to begin in my response to this post. I am glad you presume to know all your neighbors and what their motivations are. Maybe people that you know expressed these feelings but I did not hear it once. Not one parent pushed to have transfers eliminated during redistricting as far as I know to "maintain the elitist socioeconomic advantages." Lakeside is very diverse. Seems like the neighborhood has welcomed plenty of those outside the neighborhood to our school. I was far less concerned about property value than about my kids being able to get home safely after school. And it has nothing to do with the students at Druid Hills. The fact that Druid Hills is a difficult commute while Lakeside is walking distance is a huge factor. It is really easy for you with no skin in the game to now make such a sanctimonious statement. If your youngest child was still in high school and you had to deal with picking her up from after school activities every day during rush hour in Decatur, then I might hear you but you don't. You dodged the bullet and now want to make a moral stand when it is too late for you to participate. I also find it repugnant that you try to use "Christian behavior" to push your agenda. You could certainly have moved to a less affluent neighborhood to help the schools there via the ripple effect but you didn't. Not very Christian by your standards since you did nothing when faced with this horrible injustice. Give me a break.
Renee February 16, 2011 at 08:26 PM
Last time I checked, there was nothing wrong with seeking to "preserve one's socioeconomic advantages." That doesn't always have something to do with elitism. Also, I was not aware that north-central DeKalb County was where the "wealthy" people live. Jeez, what do you consider Ansley Park and Buckhead?
jim February 18, 2011 at 04:22 PM
Mr Miranda notes: If we were to answer the call of civic duty, not to mention the call to obedience for those of us who are religious, we would be traveling outward from Oak Grove and Lakeside to carry the ripple effect to the next ring of schools, and the next, and the next. But Mr Miranda fails to mention what exactly he [as in the "we"] is doing now to "help" the other schools now that his children are safely out of Lakeside. Using chlidren from the Oak Grove community to inflate test scores of badly administered and deficiently performing schools is an absurd solution that fails to address the underlying cause of the problems.
Cheryl Miller April 03, 2012 at 07:56 PM
George, thank you for so properly describing what my family has learned the hard way. You are not the only one who has noticed the way this community appears to believe they own the public school system and can do with it whatever they wish. As a parent just a couple miles away, we've had to go through hell to deal with the cell tower nightmare that supposedly the Lakeside folks started because they wanted our schools to fix their cell reception issues. They would rather ridicule the parents who have concerns about the possible health and safety issues related to the towers than take a look at their own behavior and realize that they are setting a terrible example for those chilren they are always bragging about.
Cheryl Miller April 03, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Jim, I don't think he was truly suggesting that the children of Oak Grove could inflate test scores and even if that were true, what would that accomplish? Even the brightest student is still a part of the school system offered by the 48th state in the nation in terms of quality of education. Maybe he is suggesting that rather than being in this attack and defend mode all the time, your community could start to look at the big picture. Nothing is ever going to get better unless parents can being to see common traits among one another and then find ways to get along and work together for the sake of the kids. We can't take back our school sustem as long as there are those who continue to benefit from it running exactly the way it does right now.

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